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NASA/ "Fliegende Untertasse"/ Mars-Mission
Image: picture-alliance/AP

NASA's Martian 'flying saucer'

June 29, 2014

NASA has taken its own flying-saucer-like vehicle for a test run. But the landing system will need to be tweaked before it's ready for a Mars mission.


The disc-shaped vehicle was launched by helium balloon from the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Saturday in order to test landing technology for future missions to Mars.

The vehicle, called a Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), separated from the helium balloon and engaged its rockets to reach an altitude of 55 kilometers (34 miles) over the Pacific Ocean before descending back to Earth.

An inflatable tube designed to slow the vehicle's descent was successfully deployed. But its giant landing parachute, which is 33 meters (110 feet) in diameter, failed to inflate properly. Nevertheless, NASA deemed the test to be successful.

"This is an opportunity for us to take a look at the data, learn what happened and apply that to the next test," said NASA engineer Dan Coatta, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"That's a more valuable experience for us than if everything had gone perfectly," Coatta continued.

NASA is spending $200 million (146 million euros) on the five-year project. The LDSD's next test is scheduled for the summer of 2015.

slk/mr (AP, AFP)

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